The fourth piece of Preston North End’s transfer business done since we welcomed in 2019 might just have brought some stability to a position which had developed into something of a problem.
Connor Ripley signed on the dotted line for PNE on Wednesday teatime in the latest part of a revamp of the goalkeeping department.
Ripley will compete with Declan Rudd for the keeper’s jersey, Chris Maxwell having bid a temporary farewell and headed to Charlton Athletic on loan.
Should the new boy get the nod against Swansea, he will be the fourth man to go in pegs for North End this season.
The experiment of using Michael Crowe in last week’s FA Cup defeat to Doncaster didn’t get the desired result.
That combined with the departure of Maxwell, no doubt accelerated the chase to land Ripley.
At first glance, you might have thought that Rudd and Maxwell offered stability to the goalkeeping role.
It was in November 2017 that they started to be in competition, Rudd having overcome an injury that he had suffered soon after his arrival from Norwich.
While he was sidelined, Mathew Hudson acted as back-up to Maxwell.
There was a clear No.1 and No.2, Maxwell the senior man with Hudson his junior.
Once Rudd got fit, he had to wait until last January’s FA Cup tie at Wycombe for a first-team game.
He played again in the next round against Sheffield United, keeping his place for the Championship visit to Nottingham Forest three days later.
Rudd stayed in the team until March’s 2-0 victory at Sunderland, him excused duty to attend the birth of his son that day.
He got his place back for the next game at Sheffield Wednesday, conceded four, and gave way to Maxwell for the Easter Monday clash with Derby.
Back came Rudd for the visit to Reading and held on to the gloves for the rest of last season.
He started this term in possession of the gloves, with Maxwell replacing him for the visit to Sheffield United.
Maxwell got an eight-game run in the team, one which was ended by his red card against Ipswich, that an afternoon which rocketed midfielder Paul Gallagher into the headlines when he replaced him between the sticks.
That in-out scenario is at an end now with Maxwell down in the capital.
It is a shop window job for the Welshman ahead of the summer when he will be down to the last 12 months on his contract.
Should Maxwell do well at The Valley, it would open up offers of a permanent move there or elsewhere.
He is a good keeper, there is no doubting that.
Yes, there were one or two mistakes made last season, so too this.
But his goalkeeping style fitted well with how North End wanted to play.
It is now Ripley and Rudd in competition, the gloves are off so to speak.
Would PNE have brought in Ripley just to sit him on the bench? I doubt it.
He is not a kid coming here for a bit of experience, Ripley is 25 with more than 150 appearances under his belt.
Near enough all of those came during loan spells from Middlesbrough, the club North End paid a decent sum to land Ripley.
He didn’t let the grass grow under his feet while learning his trade, with him going on loan to eight clubs.
One of those loans was in Scotland with Motherwell, another over in Sweden with Ostersunds FK.
Until this week, he was in East Lancashire, keeping goal for Accrington Stanley.
You could compare the footballing background of Ripley very much with one of PNE’s outfield recruits Jayden Stockley.
The striker was loaned out eight times earlier in his career by Bournemouth.
He finally flew the nest to join Aberdeen before landing at Exeter.
With Ripley coming in to compete with Rudd, what about the other keepers?
Crowe will quickly want to forget his debut against Doncaster
Was it fair to put him in anyway with only a bounce game or two worth of action this season?
A run of games elsewhere on loan is probably what he needs now so to build-up some confidence.
Mathew Hudson, North End’s other keeper, is now back from a loan at Bury.
He managed only four Checkatrade Trophy games in his time with the Shakers, the loan not going quite how the youngster would have wanted.
Does Hudson stay around now as a third-choice, or will there be another opening on loan for him?
Just back to Ripley and he will be one of NINE players available to Alex Neil for the Swansea game who weren’t available for the last league match at Rotherham on New Year’s Day.
Ben Pearson returns from suspension and the four new boys come into contention.
Alan Browne, Sean Maguire, Brandon Barker and Josh Earl only returned from injury in time for the Doncaster cup tie.
For Neil, it will be a case of from famine to feast in terms of selection.